13 April 2023
Apple will use 100 percent recycled cobalt in batteries by 2025
Industry-leading innovation paves a new way for important recycled metals in batteries, magnets and circuit boards
Cupertino, California Apple today announced a sharp acceleration of efforts to expand recycled materials across its products, including a new 2025 goal to use 100 percent recycled cobalt1 in all Apple-designed batteries. Additionally, by 2025, magnets in Apple devices will use fully recycled rare earth elements, and all Apple-designed printed circuit boards will use 1[ads1]00 percent recycled tin solder and 100 percent recycled gold plating.
In 2022, the company significantly expanded its use of key recycled metals, now sourcing over two-thirds of all aluminum, nearly three-quarters of all rare earths, and more than 95 percent of all tungsten in Apple products from 100 percent recycled material. This rapid progress brings Apple closer to its goal of one day making all products using only recycled and renewable materials, and furthers the company’s 2030 goal of making every product carbon neutral.
“Every day, Apple innovates to create technology that enriches people’s lives while protecting the planet we all share,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From the recycled materials in our products, to the clean energy that drives our business, environmental work is integrated into everything we make and who we are. So we will continue to push in the belief that good technology should be good for our users and for the environment.”
“Our ambition to one day use 100 percent recycled and renewable materials in our products works hand-in-hand with Apple 2030: our goal to achieve carbon-neutral products by 2030,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. “We are working quickly towards both goals and driving innovation throughout our industry in the process.”
Map progress to 2025
Apple has significantly expanded the use of 100 percent certified recycled cobalt over the past three years, making it possible to include in all Apple-designed batteries by 2025. By 2022, a quarter of all cobalt found in Apple products came from recycled material, up from 13 percent the year before. Cobalt is a critical material in the batteries used in most consumer electronics, including Apple devices, enabling high energy density while meeting Apple’s robust standards for longevity and safety. Apple-designed batteries found in the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook and many other products represent a significant majority of the company’s use of cobalt.
The company’s use of 100 percent certified recycled rare earths has expanded sharply in the past year as well, from 45 percent in 2021 to 73 percent in 2022. Since the initial introduction of recycled rare earths in the iPhone 11’s Taptic Engine, Apple has expanded the use of the material across its devices, including in all magnets found in the latest iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook and Mac models. Since magnets are by far Apple’s largest use of rare earths, the new 2025 target means that almost all rare earths in Apple products will soon be 100 percent recycled.
As part of the accelerated new timeline, all Apple-designed circuit boards will use 100 percent certified recycled gold plating by 2025. This includes rigid boards, such as the main logic board, and flexible boards, such as those that connect to the cameras or buttons in the iPhone. Since pioneering an exclusive recycled supply chain for gold in the plating of the main logic board for the iPhone 13, Apple has expanded the use of the material in additional components and products, including the wiring for all cameras in the iPhone 14 series, and printed circuit boards of the iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods Pro, MacBook Pro, Mac mini and HomePod. Apple is also working to encourage wider use of recycled gold for non-custom components in the electronics industry.
By 2025, the company will use 100 percent certified recycled tin soldering on all Apple-designed rigid and flexible circuit boards. In recent years, Apple’s use of recycled tin has expanded to solder many flexible printed circuit boards across Apple products, with 38 percent of all tin used last year coming from recycled sources. The use of recycled tin across even more components is underway, and the company engages several suppliers in this work.
Innovation has also driven progress towards another of Apple’s 2025 commitments: to remove plastic from the company’s packaging. The development of fiber alternatives for packaging components such as screen films, wraps and foam cushioning has kept Apple on track towards this ambitious goal. To manage the remaining 4 percent of plastic in the company’s packaging footprint, Apple is innovating to replace labels, lamination and other small applications. In the past year, Apple developed a custom printer to introduce digital printing directly onto the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro boxes, eliminating the need for most labels. And a new overprint varnish found in iPad Air, iPad Pro and Apple Watch Series 8 packaging replaces the polypropylene plastic lamination found on boxes and packaging components. The innovation helped avoid over 1,100 tonnes of plastic and over 2,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Progress in responsible procurement of primary and recycled materials
As Apple reduces its reliance on newly mined minerals, it is also looking for ways to support communities whose livelihoods depend directly on mining. The company works with experts such as the Fund for Global Human Rights to provide support to human rights and environmental defenders on the front lines, including in the African Great Lakes region, as well as vocational training programs that enable members of local communities to move away from mining to build skills and pursue new opportunities.
Apple sources primary minerals responsibly and operates the highest level of human rights and environmental standards throughout its supply chain. Apple was the first electronics company to publish a list of cobalt and lithium refiners in its battery supply chain, with cobalt in 2016 and lithium in 2020. In 2017, the company mapped its rare earth supply chain. And since 2015, every identified smelter and refinery for tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold has participated in independent third-party audits.
In the transition to recycled and renewable content, Apple has prioritized 14 materials based on environmental, human rights and supply impact that together make up nearly 90 percent of the material shipped in Apple products: aluminum, cobalt, copper, glass, gold, lithium, paper, plastic , rare earths, steel, tantalum, tin, tungsten and zinc.
By 2022, approximately 20 percent of all materials shipped in Apple products came from recycled or renewable sources. This includes the first use of recycled copper foil in the main logic board of the iPad (10th generation), the introduction of certified recycled steel in the battery compartment of the MacBook Air with the M2 chip, 100 percent recycled tungsten in the latest Apple Watch series, and the aluminum capsules found in many Apple products, made from a 100 percent recycled aluminum alloy designed by Apple.
Innovative for the recycling of the future
Apple’s work in pioneering new research and development for end-of-life disassembly and recycling has helped make this progress possible. Through extensive efforts, including partnerships with leading research institutions and the Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas, Apple engineers and experts are developing innovative ways to give new life to materials in Apple products, helping to inform design decisions that support disassembly and recovery.
The company’s iPhone disassembly robot, Daisy, separates batteries from other components, enabling specialist recyclers to recover cobalt and other materials, including lithium. Since 2019, Apple estimates that more than 11,000 kilograms of cobalt has been recovered from batteries extracted from Daisy and then returned to the secondary market. Daisy also helps recover rare earth elements, which are largely lost through traditional electronic recycling processes.
Daisy is just one example of how Apple’s innovations in recycling and disassembly can drive industry-wide change. The company’s Dave robot, now deployed with a recycling partner in China, could help further accelerate the recovery of rare earth elements by dismantling Taptic Engines.
Apple has also begun distributing overhead projector-based AR systems to recycling partners. The system guides disassembly of devices including MacBooks and iPads by projecting video images directly onto a work surface. The company publishes Apple Recycler Guides for global recycling companies to maximize the efficiency of material recycling while safeguarding human health and safety. As recycled and renewable materials can help reduce each product’s carbon footprint, improved recovery also brings Apple closer to its ambitious goal of being carbon neutral throughout the supply chain and lifecycle of each product by 2030.
Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Apple’s five software platforms—iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS—provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and provide people with cutting-edge services, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, and iCloud. Apple’s more than 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.
- All references to cobalt content are based on a mass balance system.
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